By Cindy Zomar, Contributing Writer
Westborough – After spending more than 24 hours starting Feb. 27 outside in the elements, John Bogaert and Scott Henderson were more than happy to wrap it up and head back to their warm houses, thanking everyone who helped make their fundraiser, A Night in the Cold, a huge success.
“After this very turbulent year on so many levels, the compassion, caring, love and empathy that people have shown has completely restored my faith in humanity,” Bogaert said.
Because everything they needed was donated, 100% of the funds collected will go directly to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. As of this writing, the amount was $30,635.
Braving the elements overnight
The two friends had camped out in a parking lot and slept in two refrigerator boxes overnight to shed light on the plight of the homeless, but readily admitted that with protective clothing, good gear, plenty of warm food, and the support of friends and family stopping by, they were only touching on the hardships faced by too many every night.
“But it was a little bit real, too. It was uncomfortable and I got little sleep, and in a small way, it was a hardship that helped me briefly live the experience,” said Henderson.
Starting out early on the cold and rainy Saturday morning, the men were already chilled by the time they crawled into their cardboard boxes around midnight. They quickly learned that they had to wrap their blankets tightly around them and not move for fear of creating a gap that would let body heat out and more cold, damp air in. The lights from the 24-hour gas station and the sound of cars going by throughout the night only made it that much harder to get any rest.
“Freezing temps combined with rain or dampness can be a deadly combination without rain gear or warm clothing. We had both, and it was still a struggle to get any sleep. I estimate we got about 3 hours of very restless sleep,” explained Bogaert.
Spreading the word
Bringing the widespread dilemma of homelessness into the public eye was the objective of the overnight event. Both men reported that countless people were willing to share stories about their own acquaintances, friends, or even family members who have experienced homelessness.
“The event created a forum for people to tell me their own stories,” explained Henderson, “and it brought home for me what a widespread problem homelessness is, and closer to my own bubble than I had realized.”
The men hope that getting people to feel more comfortable in talking about the issue will further raise awareness and prompt other fundraising events to help alleviate the suffering.
A sobering takeaway
Tony, currently experiencing homelessness in Worcester, was a sobering source of information to the men with regard to what life holds for those in this dire situation. Through conversations with him, it became apparent that it’s not just the lack of a warm bed or meal on a regular basis that is heartbreaking.
Bogaert commented, “My biggest takeaway was when I learned that there is zero entertainment in these people’s lives. And by entertainment, I mean anything that makes you happy. Survival mode puts everything else on hold, funding wise and time wise.”
Contributions still accepted
Anyone still wishing to donate should visit www.donate2homeless.org.